Memories and musings
December 29, 2017
With reference to Cheryl Cook's excellent letter on life in wartime Hawaii (The Union, Dec. 17) many sources confirm that the lack of internment for people in Hawaii of Japanese ancestry was not due to any moral superiority, but rather a matter of sheer practicality.
For instance, historian DeSoto Brown, of the Honolulu Bishop Museum, reports that "Hours after the attack, Hawaii, a U.S. territory at the time, was placed under martial law, and all of the islands' residents were under the dictatorship of the U.S. military … Since Japanese-Americans made up 37 percent of Hawaii's population, it was impossible for the military to incarcerate all of them … Instead, all residents of Hawaii — white, Native Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese — were forced to live under strict military rule."
In other words, if we could have, we would have treated Hawaiian Japanese-Americans as poorly as we did their continental cousins.
I was fortunate to be able to visit Hawaii a couple of times around 1949, and indeed it was paradise. Remember, going into World War II the population of Hawaii was about 400,000. Today it is almost 1.5 million. Even if our memories of the halcyon days of our youth were untainted by the passage of so many years, which I find highly unlikely, the Hawaii, and many other places and events we remember, no longer exist.
One of the most vibrant memories of my youth is a dream in which I was in Oz. I forget who, the Wizard, Dorothy, Ozma, or somebody, told me that I couldn't stay, but had to go home. When I woke up, I cried for days. Sometimes reality sucks, but it's all we've got.
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